Blogging is fast becoming a creative pastime for Irish mammies – and their humorous and honest postings give them a unique voice in the online world
Loving You, by Minnie Riperton, is No 1 in the top 10 songs that make teenagers cringe, according to Annie Morris. “It may be the birds at the beginning or the screaming halfway through, but either way it’s a classic. Play it continuously on repeat and you may not see your teenager for days,” she recently wrote.
At No 4 is Save Your Love, by Renée and Renato. “Try to get your teenager to take the part of Renato. If they refuse, play both parts yourself,” she explains. Her “tip” to enhance the cringe factor of No 10 Charlene’s I’ve Never Been To Me is to “sing into a ladle”.
Morris is a member of a relatively new species — Irish mums who blog. Her website, Slice of Life, is one of a growing number that brings the world-renowned humour, insight and wisdom of the Irish mammy out of the home and, well, into homes everywhere.
The mother of four children says she finds the time to post online because she loves it. That and the fact that she has things to say, from listing the top “100 things to do in Kildare before you die” (No 14: try finding a parking space in Kildare Village on a Saturday afternoon) to describing her experience at the NCT test centre (A flustered-looking woman sat beside me. “Did your car fail?” I asked. “No, I’m going through the menopause,” she replied).
“I guess the joy in blogging is that you are the editor, the photographer and the writer, but I decided to do it because it’s a platform for my work and it connects me to the rest of the world,” Morris says.
The 44-year-old describes herself as a “stay-at-home mum”, but she is more of a mother who works from home, given that she also writes a column for the Leinster Leader and has a burgeoning publishing career.
Between answering emails from Americans wanting details of the flour used in her “best Nutella cake in the world” recipe, she has found time to write two books — a novel, White Stilettos, and a children’s book, Sloth Cake, both of which are being reviewed by an agent. She is going to be doing a charity skydive next month with Sharon Shannon, Frances Black and most of the Irish female folk scene which, she says, should give her “something to blog about, all right”.
“Blogging is a great distraction for stay-at-home mothers,” Morris says. “When I put a new piece on my blog, I link it to Twitter and know straight away it’s out there and being read. It totally and utterly enhances my life.”
Ciara McDonnell has been a journalist for more than 15 years and, when she found out she was pregnant in 2010, she wanted to know everything about pregnancy right away. She armed herself with a series of books and then read every article she could find online, but was annoyed that both sources only talked about it as the most wonderful time in a woman’s life.
The 32-year-old Dubliner was editing Easy Food magazine, but she went part time when Matthew, her first son, was born, then took maternity leave when Michael, her second, arrived in 2012. It was at this point she decided to redress the balance and so the hard-hitting Ouch My Fanny Hurts blog was conceived.
“I loved being pregnant, but I felt like crap all the time,” McDonnell says. “I was sick of reading how I ‘should be feeling’ in all of the pregnancy books, so I decided to blog about it. It’s a cathartic thing for me, as well as a way to keep a creative space open for myself.”
McDonnell was the first of her friends to have children and found that being a parent can be isolating, especially for stay-at-home mothers.
Through blogging, she has joined the Irish Parenting Bloggers group, found a network of friends and uncovered a life’s worth of advice from others in the trenches of parenthood.
“I’m aware that it’s not the same as face-to-face support, but in Ireland today, we don’t know our neighbours the way we used to. We all need to find a village to help us raise our children, and I’ve found mine, albeit online.”
Visitors to McDonnell’s web-based home get to enjoy a feature of other similar blogs — humour and honesty. In a recent post, “Getting a Life”, she wrote about being shocked into organising a night out after realising that she and “her fella” had had a “fluid and full discussion about the amazing download speed of their internet connection”.
In another she described being a mother as “sometimes boring” and talked of how she dreamed of being back at work full-time.
“I want to smooth on some expensive foundation and know that a screed of it will still be there by 5pm,” she said.
Yvonne Keenan-Ross and Eavan Brady were introduced to the idea of blogging at an online marketing conference in 2010. They were fascinated by the idea of writing their own and so invested in an expensive online training pack that taught them nothing.
“It was rubbish, but we had to prove it to get our money back,” explains Keenan-Ross. The two sat side by side for three months, mining YouTube for information, and eventually knew enough to uphold their claim and get a refund. They were then also able to start irishmoms.com.
The pair, who are from Carlingford, in Co Louth, and in their forties, both write about everything and anything, whenever they get the chance.
In the beginning, they weren’t sure anyone was reading their posts, but that changed when other women stopped them in the street to talk about some of the issues they raised.
“Women like to get an insight into other women’s lives. They like to know that there are other people out there who aren’t perfect, too. The blog made me more aware of the world around me and it made realise that I might have something to say that could help other people,” Keenan-Ross says.
While Brady, who has four children, is more private in her postings, Keenan-Ross, a mother of two, doesn’t hold anything back. She will happily discuss a range of topics, from her ideal weight to how best to time a holiday bikini wax correctly. Not even Stephen, her husband, escapes a mention.
“This week for my holidays it all has to come off,” she once revealed. “Well, only the bits that have escaped from my knickers. I know some of you are asking what about Stephen? Doesn’t he mind all that hair?
“Well, what about him? He looks like his mother knit him and do I ask him to get covered in hot wax and have it ripped off? No, I don’t.”
Brady uses the blog to speak out about things that upset her, such as online bullying. Her eldest son has hearing problems and has had to wear a cochlear implant since the age of nine. She has been documenting his journey through appointments, school and six higher-level Leaving Certificate examinations. She wants parents in a similar position to know what options are out there.
“Sometimes women can lose their own identity when they’re at home with their children all of the time. Then they discover blogging and they get to be creative. They get their voices back,” she says.
annie-morris.blogspot.ie, irishmoms.com and ouchmyfannyhurts.wordpress.com
In their own words…
The Mama’s Hip
A tandem-feeding, stay-at-home mother of two boys blogs about her beliefs, boots and breast-feeding. www.themamashipblog.com
Mama Dynamite is a mother from Cork who explodes the myths of motherhood with her musings, reviews, articles, laughs and joy. www.mamadynamite.com
La Belle Mama
A first-time mother details her pregnancy cosmetic tricks and tips, while shedding light on the unknown for those expecting. She also manages an online maternity store. labellemama.wordpress.com
My Internal World…
Late-twenties mother of one finds her independent self, her brain and hint of passion through her blog. She says inspiration shouldn’t be kept from the reader and offers the odd giveaway. myinternalworlddotcom.wordpress.com
Glitter Mama Wishes
A former beauty therapist, now a stay-at-home mother of two, still has a love for all things glittery and fragranced and writes about health, beauty, family, home and fashion. glittermamawishes.com
Fathers have their say too
It’s not just mums who blog. Kieran Farrell doesn’t like to preach and so he keeps his online presence, GoDadGo.ie, light-hearted. A father to four-year-old Diego, he tends to delve into such topics as pram etiquette and the two months he has just spent with his Peruvian mother-in-law. He says he finds it “therapeutic”.
The 33-year-old digital project manager, from Rathfarnham in Dublin, set up his blog last year and uses it as an excuse to write.
“I’ve always loved writing,” he says. “I used to do it a lot, mostly on scraps of paper and in notebooks while I was doing volunteer work in Peru, and then I met Betty, my wife, had a son, moved home and joined the corporate world, so I don’t have as much time for it any more.”
Now a member of the Irish Parenting Bloggers group, Farrell says he still manages to find the chance to sit down on most Tuesday nights to detail what he describes as his “fumblings in the dark, observations and experiences as a father”.
Richard O’Connor likes the interaction he has with the people who comment on Head Rambles (headrambles.com), his blog. Grandad, the character the 63-year-old has created, is known to give as good as he gets in his postings. “He’s a persona of mine and it’s a lot fun,” he says. “He tends to be crude and outspoken.”
O’Connor, a former IT professional, retired a couple of years ago and since then has won an award, written a book and been the subject of many interviews as a result of his blog.
His online presence is described as an “ordinary bloke”, but an old and grumpy one who puts his “gripes” on the net. “I’m sane. I even have a certificate from my psychiatrist to prove it. He says I’m making great progress,” is how Grandad puts it.